Wichita State, armed with great expectations, leave the mainland for a game against California in the first round of the Maui Invitational on Monday, but it will be basketball first of course for the No. 8 Shockers. Wichita State, which carried its highest preseason ranking into a season since 1981-82, is coming off an 81-63 victory over Charleston on Nov. 13 in a game in which it led by as many as 33 points before taking its foot off the pedal late.
“We are all looking forward to Maui,’’ Shockers senior center Shaquille Morris told reporters after recording 18 points and 10 rebounds versus Charleston. “Great teams, great competition. “We just need to go into practice these next few days, lock in, prepare for the teams we are going to see and handle our business.” Wichita State is off to an excellent shooting start to the season, making 54.9 percent from the field, 45.5 from 3-point range and 80 percent at the free-throw line. The Bears, who were voted to finish second-to-last in the Pac-12 preseason poll, bounced back from a season-opening 74-66 loss to UC Riverside with victories over Cal Poly 85-82 on Nov. 12 and Wofford 79-65 on Thursday. Junior guard Don Coleman scored 31 against Riverside and 30 versus Cal Poly but failed to become the second player in Cal history (Ed Gray, 1977) to score 30 or more points in three straight games when he had 16 against Wofford.
TV: 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
ABOUT WICHITA STATE (2-0): The Shockers returned virtually everyone from their 31-5 club from a season ago including senior forward Darral Willis Jr., who has a total of 33 points and 17 rebounds in the first two games. Five players have scored 21 or more total points this season with Morris (34) leading the way, and Rauno Nurger and Landry Shamet at 27 apiece. Senior guard Conner Frankamp (21 points) and junior guard Samajae Haynes-Jones boast 12 assists apiece, and senior forward Rashard Kelly (16 rebounds) joins Willis and Morris (15) as the club’s top rebounders.
ABOUT CALIFORNIA (2-1): Senior forward Marcus Lee, a 6-11 transfer from Kentucky, recorded 17 points, 11 rebounds and five assists Thursday for his second consecutive double-double. “I’m extremely comfortable with this offense,” Lee, who averaged 6.4 points and 6.0 rebounds during his junior season at Kentucky in 2015-16, told reporters. “Going through it every day in offense, we see just about every different thing that comes out of each play so it’s kind of sitting like a quarterback.” Freshman guard Darius McNeill broke out for 17 points versus Wofford after totaling eight points in his first two collegiate games.
1. The Golden Bears’ Kingsley Okoroh (10.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.0 blocks) is one of 20 nominees for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given to to the nation’s top center.
2. Shamet has made a 3-pointer in 27 straight games, tying the school record set by Ron Baker in 2014-15. Shamet is 63-for-128 during his streak.
3. Marquette and VCU are the next opponents in Tuesday’s semifinals or losers’ bracket.
PREDICTION: Wichita State 80, Cal 58